In Case You’ve Wondered What It’s Like

Guilt. There’s been a lot of that.

Because I underestimated what it would be like to be at home. There have been fewer showers, less projects and more chores. There have been days when I feel like I’m on top of the world, and days when I cry for hours and wonder when I will get a break and feel sane again.

I sometimes eat dinner in the bathroom while watching my kids play in the bath tub, and my house isn’t nearly as clean as I thought it would be.

I completely took for granted the 40-hour break I got from being a mom each week. Not that my  mom-worries and responsibilities stopped when I went to work, but shifting my responsibility to something else for eight hours a day was a break. And I didn’t ever think so at the time.

I underestimated the value of a lot of the relationships I had with my co-workers, and I’ve realized that I wasn’t a very good boss or friend at work. I couldn’t have been. I was trying to do it all by myself, and had lost faith in God and I too often let my stress get to me. I always seemed annoyed and no one ever seemed to need me at a time that was convenient for me. I was so buried in tasks and the desire to perform. I cared deeply about always doing the right thing and being good for everyone, but I wasn’t good for myself. I am thankful for this awareness now and look forward to continuing to nurture the relationships I had through work that I know were real.

I miss interacting with adults all day and I miss taking a lunch break. I miss holding team meetings and watching my maintenance guys roll their eyes because I asked them to hang a sign.

There are days when my mind surges with ideas for my new business and all I want is eight hours to sit at a desk and my laptop and colorful pens and planners and a good playlist. I’d even take four hours. I just miss the grind of getting stuff done. Having a perpetual to-do list that carries over from one day to the next makes you feel like you’re digging holes on the beach. The wave comes, and fills up your hole and you have to dig again. And then more waves.

So, I savor nap time and all that I’m able to accomplish (like this blog post), but I feel guilty for telling Sadler she can watch TV while I work.

I’ve moved on to living life in my favorite robe and yoga pants, spending most of my day in the kitchen and building a rock star essential  oil business. I’ve gotten to spend more time with my Granny over the last three months than I’ve spent with her in the last 10 years. I’ve cancelled cable, sold my dream car, paid off debt, started this blog, read at least a dozen books and made lasting new friendships.

I’m grateful for all the naps I’ve been able to rock Everly before, and all the times I’ve been able to say Hi to the mailman.

I know that being needed all of the time may seem heavy and hard, because it is. But I’m thankful for the time I’ve learned to make for myself and appreciate each minute more than ever before. I’m learning to let the guilt of it all go, because I feel in my bones that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. And doing it with dirty hair and yoga pants makes it just that much more fun.

I know how the lotus flower grows…

 

 

 

Reflections: A Season Ends

I had a really close friend in college tell me out of the blue that we couldn’t be friends anymore. She just stopped hanging out with me. I remember feeling super-confused and I asked another friend if he knew what happened to make her stop wanting to hang out. He said, “You were just too much for her to handle”…

My journey as an at-home mama began at the end of winter. Spring came in, a fresh breeze of light and momentum. Now it’s nearing an end, and summer starts next week. A new season, a new set of goals and a new wave of life and adventure.

I’m learning to accept that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. They may float in and it feels as if they’ve been in the room all along. Like a feather. (I saw a feather on the beach just last weekend. It reminded me of the down pillows on Mama Dot’s bed and it made me smile/cry a tiny tear.)

Some people leave suddenly like my college friend, and we can’t help but wonder what we did to suddenly shift things so unexpectedly.

But then sometimes, we are blessed with people who land on our path at just at the right time. We instantly feel warm and we know we will love them forever.

I see life differently now.

Do you remember those books we used to color in as a kid? The ones where the pages were black and white drawings with tiny boxes within the drawing, like a big puzzle… and there was a number in the box and you filled in the boxes according to the little legend at the bottom of the page? Well, now when I look at those pages, all of my tiny boxes are filled in with color. All of the drawings are colored in in beautiful colors. It’s the same book, but I see all the colors. I now get the joy of adding glitter to the pages.

I’ve learned that being misunderstood is one of the most painful experiences as a human. Or, at least for me as a human. I can be seen by many as a punch in the face, packed into a pill form, immediately followed by a smile and a hug. But what I’m learning is that we all see differently, through different lenses. And I’m just not seen by everyone. And I can’t change that. I have a big heart and a strong passion to help others find the light within them. I’ve been called to help others see what I now see.

I’ve felt my friendships shift over the recent weeks, as the season has shifted into summer. I feel the energy moving around my circles and feel the different bonds forming as weekends and fireside nights turn to beach memories and family time at the park. I feel some drifting away as some are drawing closer. I welcome and appreciate the joy I feel in my life every day and am thankful for the people who have allowed me into their space. If you’ve been in mine, I can assure you it was a pure joy for me. I savor every bit of time I have to give love to others and am humbled by what this season has done for me as a person, a mother, a wife, a friend, a business leader.

The light within me sees and honors the light within you.

I look forward to summer. More time in the sun, more time in the sand, more time in the hammock, more burgers on the grill, more deep talks on the back patio. I look forward to pool days and spending time with some of my sweet mama friends around the baby pool.

I am thankful for what spring cultivated in my life. It’s incredibly beautiful to watch growth through nurturing and a little love and attention. Grace gets us far, I’m learning. God is so big and great and good.

 

Reflections: Motherhood for Me

Something salpingitis. That’s what I remember my doctor saying to me. She was young like me, so the tears in her eyes as she told me made sense to me. But I still didn’t understand. Having children on my own would be very difficult because my fallopian tubes were blocked? I’m sorry, what do you mean exactly? I remember getting in the car and sobbing. We knew we wanted to have a family, and we had already discussed adoption if it truly wasn’t in our plan to have our own children. But I was devastated to think of the possibility.

God proved that doctor wrong and we became pregnant with Sadler in 2011. When we found out we were pregnant, I will never forget the way that I felt. I felt happier and more excited than ever before! I quickly became washed with the gift of motherhood and made my body a temple to prepare for the precious child God would bless us with.

We wanted a boy. I really wanted a boy. I even knew what I wanted to name him. I remember being in the tiny ultrasound room, my parents and Reid’s parents circled the room as we all patiently waited for the technician to tell us. When she said it was a girl…I wept. I think to this day everyone in the room except for my husband thought I was weeping tears of joy. In reality, the tears were fear and disappointment. I felt guilty for being sad that it wasn’t a boy. But deep down, I feared I wouldn’t know how to be a mother to a girl. My mother and I didn’t have the closest of relationships throughout my life, and while I love my mother dearly and am thankful for the journey we rode because it has undoubtedly led me to who and what I am today — I was scared.

Sadler Mae was born on July 12, 2012 via cesarean because she was breach. Her umbilical cord prolapsed while I was being prepped for delivery and what was a normal procedure turned into an emergency situation in the blink of an eye. My husband was still in the hall being scrubbed in when they made the incision to get her out. The anesthesia hadn’t fully kicked in. I wanted my husband’s hand to hold. I wanted his eyes to look into. Within a few seconds, he stood before me, and I don’t think either of us was breathing. We just locked eyes and cried as the doctors and nurses worked to get Sadler out of my body. She was lodged under my ribcage and it took lots of force and unexpected positioning to get her out. And then, the sweetest most anticipated sound my ears ever did wait to hear. She cried. And I breathed. And my life was changed forever.

No automatic alt text available.

In January of 2015 I turned 33 and for a birthday gift, someone very special to me took me to see a spiritual advisor. I had been to one once before as a teenager, and honestly didn’t know what to expect as we walked in. One of the things that came up during our conversation was whether or not I would be blessed with another child. Reid and I knew we wanted another child, and I really still wanted to have a son. I had dreamt of my baby Dax. I had seen his face before and held him in my arms. So when I told this to the spiritual advisor that day, I felt the look in her eye but wouldn’t fully understand until a few months later. She gently smiled and told me that “soon enough” I would be pregnant again and reminded me to be patient with God’s plan.

I found out I was pregnant with another baby girl in June of 2015 and Everly Jean was born on December 27. She and I rocked out an amazing vaginal delivery, which was something I wanted more than I even realized until it actually happened. It was intense and long and difficult and painful. But there is no doubt in my mind that the second this child exited my body and joined our family earth side, a spiritual gate opened within my soul and my life became bright with colors I’d never seen before.

No automatic alt text available.

I’ve thought often about my conversation with the spiritual advisor that day, and after connecting the dots in some of my own intuition I now believe that we did get our baby Dax. He was living inside me at some point in my life. However, God had Everly held for us and she was waiting. It wasn’t in the plan for baby Dax to be mine on Earth. But it was most certainly his divine plan to give me Everly.

I am weeping as I type this, because I am filled with so much emotion through this realization. We often think we have it all figured out, but we are small in the grand scheme of everything. God has a bigger plan for us all, and doctor’s don’t know everything. Life is a gift and a miracle.

 

EXDA2574

I will celebrate being a mother every day that I’m alive. I enjoyed a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend with my two daughters and husband picking strawberries and just loving on each other. It’s the little things that reset my perspective of my purpose. I’m grateful for these moments.

It Always was WAHM

 

This has been my view lately. It’s what I see when I look out the back window of my house. In front of this window sits a tall kitchen table with lots of chairs. It’s where I sit (and stand) a lot of the day. It’s where I work.

It was February 1st of this year, and it was the very first day that I was at home in my “new life”. On this day, I recall thinking to myself…”I’m never going to think or say the words: I have to go to work again today/tomorrow…“. I even recall telling my husband about this thought I had. I told him that I was going to make it my goal to never utter those words again. I recall him smirking and saying, “OK babe.”  In my heart, these words meant so much more to me than they may seem to you reading them now, or to my husband when he heard them initially. I had felt a shift within myself and knew that I was going to find a way to contribute to our family without ever working outside of the home again.

It was merely a few days later, I was standing in the laundry room listening to my thoughts race back and forth in my head between ideas I’d pondered on ways to work from home. My heart was heavy. I’d been praying about it. Reid and I had been fighting about it. Quitting my job – my CAREER in property management that had provided so many blessings for us over the last decade – was a BIG DEAL. And while my heart may have felt that there was a plan, putting that plan into motion seemed like a more daunting task than I had realized.

But as I stood there, and continued to pull each piece of clothing out of the dryer one-by-one, it was as if the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, Candice, turn your head to the left”.

On the countertop to my left sat my wooden box of essential oils. Our families medicine cabinet. My reliable emotional health regimen. My daily go-to for at least 5 different reasons for myself or someone in this house.

I remember throwing my head back and literally laughing out loud when this happened. “Really, Lord?!” I cried! Something that had been right at my fingertips every. single. day. for the last two years was now the vehicle to bring income to my family.

What does the word “work” really mean to us anyway? The way I see it, we work to make money. Right?!

So, what if I could make money a non-traditional way? A way in which I never had to “go to work” again, or at least it would never feel that way. And then I read a story about a man:

There once was a man who hauled buckets of water for a living. His job was to haul water every day from the nearest water source, back to his village. Because everyone needed water, he always sold out. If he wanted to make more money, he simply hauled more buckets of water.

After many years of hauling these buckets of water, the man grew tired. Then he had an idea and inspiration! He decided to use his spare time to build a pipeline, so that eventually he could be free of hauling buckets of water, yet still provide water to the people of his village. So, he worked very hard over the next few years to build his pipeline.

The day the man turned on his water spigot, everything changed. He had successfully created an unlimited supply of water for the villagers and himself, resulting in an abundant financial pipeline.

I never knew anything about network marketing. Like most people, I had my own narrow thoughts about what it really was and how it really worked. Prior to this year, I didn’t really care to know about it. I had used the products for the last couple of years and found  myself sharing with friends and loved ones naturally. However, I never had an interest in the business side of the company. I then read one book and that was all it took for me to see the vision.

It also hasn’t taken me very long to see that the business venture I’ve launched into is really a personal development company disguised as an essential oil company.

Over the last ninety days, I have grown exponentially as a person.

I have found support in some incredible people who are walking this same  journey with me.

I have had the beautiful pleasure of helping other people get started on this very same journey. While their pace may be different or their approach unique to my own, the journey is theirs – and I get to be a part in helping them reach their goals.

I have found a way to utilize all of the business skills I acquired and sharpened over the past decade in order to propel my business forward.

Reading this book opened my eyes to living on purpose and gave me a powerful inspiring approach to managing all of the goals in my life and has made them more attainable and the reward seem more gratifying.

I’ve also learned that at an early age, we give ourselves limiting beliefs on what we should do and feel and think and say. By doing this, we have fears that we may never breakthrough. Reading this book has been an eye-opening way to change this mindset altogether for me personally, and has taught me to face my fears head on and then to watch them dissipate.

I have taken a deep dive in, head first and will never look back.

If you find yourself feeling as if you are just going through the motions in your life, you probably are.

If you stare at the ceiling at night thinking that there has got to be a better way to live life, there definitely is.

We were all put on this Earth to do something more than just pay bills.

Life is meant to be LIVED. We should not have to haul buckets for hours upon days upon weeks upon years.

Time is not something meant to hold us captive by all that we “have to do”. Time is actually in abundance if you can learn to shift your mindset about what’s actually important to you. Only then will you see that time is a gift, not a limitation.

I look forward to life now more so than ever. I truly welcome each day as a new gift from God and am so thankful to be able to carry out the plans He has in store for me. My heart remains full so that I may pour into others.

I went from working 40-50 hours a week outside of the home to working about 15 hours per week inside the home and am on a path to replace the income I once earned by the Fall of this year. This opportunity has proved itself to be very real and for once in my life, there is no stress associated with my “job”. It feels weird even calling what I do now a “job” because it just doesn’t feel like work. It just doesn’t.

I don’t sell essential oils. I share and educate others.

I don’t have essential oil parties. I teach essential oil classes.

This is not my hobby. This is my business.

I’m busy building a pipeline for my family so that someday, the mental shift will have come full circle — and we can pack up and vacation for three weeks if we feel like it. And we won’t have any debt left to pay. And we won’t feel like prisoners of time to the demands of the institutionalized world we feel so vacuumed into today.

I have a personal goal to lead a team of 1,000 people to take charge of their own health and wellness. I will achieve this goal by teaching anyone I can about the endless benefits these gifts of the Earth offer.

Who do you know that can help me reach this goal?…

 

 

 

Reflections: First Two Months

Since this journey began, I’ve noticed things. I’ve felt shifts within my being that have moved me to tears, brought me to my knees and made me laugh until I’ve ached. Some of the things I have noticed about my daughters and my husband and myself are things that never caught my attention before — it wasn’t there to give. I was here, but I wasn’t here. I saw them, but I didn’t see. Being home for the last two months has slowed me down. The stirring has stopped just enough that I am able to notice things that were always there before, just not deserving of my time in my “busy life”. I’ve found a way to stay still and calm (for the most part) and present.

I’ve noticed a tender, undenying compassion in Sadler that led her to cry — actually sob outloud — during a Disney movie. The movie was Brave, and it was the scene where Merida is reunited with her mother. I came into the room to check on her when I heard her sobbing. When I saw her sitting there on her beanbag looking up, my heart immediately swelled. Her eyes connected with mine and she smiled just a little as tears slid over her little cheeks and onto the floor. I held her head on my chest and kissed her forehead and I cried, too. I knew at that moment that she had compassion and it brought joy to my heart. Partly because I realized that my girl had a gift, and partly because I actually watched it happen.

I’ve learned that Sadler likes to take her tiny toys apart, only so she can see how they were made and challenge herself to put them back together. I’ve watched her develop patience with herself and her sister and the dog. She has become more aware of what she has to do to keep her stuff “safe” from their impromptu takings.

I’ve learned that Everly is more observant than we realized and she mimics her sister’s every move. There isn’t a soul she has encountered that doesn’t earn her whole smile, as she truly does draw in everyone she meets. Her energy is strong and she is going to need much protection as she grows up innocently.

I’ve noticed an ebb and flow in my marriage that brings both peace and calamity, all in sometimes what seems to be the same wave. I’ve learned that silence wins arguments and that being louder doesn’t make you right. Marriage is a team effort and both teammates have to be willing to give 100% all of the time, not 50% each most of the time.

I’ve discovered that cooking dinner early in the afternoon so that it’s ready when Reid gets home from work makes a big difference in our evening. We have time for walks in the neighborhood and playing in the backyard and I’ve learned that we need these moments in our life. It’s the little things that reset us to what’s important in the middle of it all.

I’ve learned that cleaning my house is easier to do in small doses, rather than try to tackle all at once. Monday and Friday are laundry days. I fill in Tuesday thru Thursday with something different each day: floors, bathrooms, dusting, windows, etc..  It has made for an easier approach for sure and I feel less overwhelmed with trying to do it all every day.

I’ve remained determined to show respect to my husband continually, because I’ve accepted that he needs my reminder of this all of the time. I’ve discovered that love and respect reciprocate one another in very natural ways if you just let them.

I’ve taken time each morning to devote my heart and my thoughts to God. I was given a daily devotional book in January for my birthday (by a person in my life I hold very dear to my heart). I started reading it right away and quickly caught up to the day the book was given to me and I haven’t missed a day since. I find relevance in the author’s daily thoughts to my own journey and am receptive to the message the scripture provides. Sometimes this may only be a two-minute window that I have to share with God as I read, but I make sure to make time for those two minutes. I just don’t feel that my day is the same without it. It sets the tone for my heart for the remainder of the day and reminds me where my I should place my focus.

I’ve launched a business! Who knew that something that has literally been right under my nose for two years would be a vessel for financial freedom, a way to share my unwavering passion for natural solutions, and a way to use the skills I developed and sharpened while in my decade-long property management career?! I certainly didn’t, but here is what happened: I was standing in the laundry room in early January, and my heart was heavy. How can I make money from home so that I can help contribute to our family and lifestyle?  I had created profiles on UpWork to dive into freelance consulting opportunities or entry level writing gigs. I had bagged up everything I could find to sell on MICIT or at a yard sale for quick cash. But as I was standing there at this very moment in the laundry room, I remember, it was as if the Lord said, “Look to your left…” and there it was. Etched into the wooden box that contained my arsenal of essential oils, our go-to for sickness and cleaning products and cooking and emotional health and first aid…the words were there. And I literally laughed out loud! doTERRA. It was my answer. And God has already shown that it was a smart realization, yet one I could have never realized sooner than now. This was my time. I’ve found my place and I’ve only just begun. I’ve helped family and friends get essential oils into their homes. I have had the time to spend teaching others how to use essential oils and have shared oils with strangers.  My heart has remained full along the way, which is how I know I’m exactly where I need to be. Excited for what is to come just isn’t a good enough way to describe it. I am euphoric.

As Spring is upon us and the Dogwoods are blooming and we all find ourselves feeling a little more alive, I am thankful for all that the last couple of months have provided me. I never dreamed of a life where I could blog in the afternoon on a Tuesday while my baby girl naps, all the windows open in my house as the afternoon breeze reminds me to be still. I am expanding in abundance and love and success each day as I inspire others around me to do the same. I choose joy.

 

 

 

 

Amen. Namaste.

img_1134-1I grew up in church. It was a Southern Baptist church; the pews were wooden with fabric cushion. The hymnals were blue, and they were sporadically placed along the backs of each pew in attached wooden shelves. There were little pencils in little holes next to bigger little holes that were there to hold your communion cup. There were cards for first-time guests to fill out, and there were envelopes for tithing.

Church was a place we just automatically went. My great-grandparents and/or grandparents generally took me along with them on Wednesday nights. First we would go eat at either K&W or the O’Henry Grill, and then I would go to the Youth service while they went in “big church”. I remember being shy in youth group because I was so little in comparison to the “big” kids.

I remember years before that attending Vacation Bible School and making crafts out of popsicle sticks and coloring pictures with Bible verses written on them. I remember being in a play as a 7-year-old and thinking I was the coolest kid on the planet because I was acting. I remember around this same time, singing a solo on Sunday morning and being terrified when the time came in the music for me to start, and instead of singing I ran straight off the stage and into my cousin Sissy’s lap as tears rolled down my cheeks. I remember lots of softball games on Friday nights watching my dad play. I remember covered dish lunches in the Fellowship Hall and that I always had to find what Mama Dot or Granny brought because I knew it was likely one of my favorites. I remember laying across Mama Dot’s lap during the church sermon and getting some of the best back scratches the world’s ever known. I remember being baptized by Pastor Bud and even remember what I wore that day.

I have lots of memories of church growing up, but none of them really include much about God. As I grew into an adult, I drifted away from the familiar place church offered me and my family. I found myself choosing sleep over sermons on Sunday mornings, often to nurse a hangover or just catch up from being exhausted. People in the church “family” started to ask questions. Gossip set in. My parents (finally) divorced. My life fell apart… and church didn’t make the cut for what was important to me at that time.

As I went off to college, not much changed. I made good grades, held sometimes two jobs at a time while taking a full-load of courses at NC State. I made some great friends – some of whom are my very dearest friends today – but church and God wasn’t something that was talked about much in my circle of friends. If it was, I don’t remember. Which only tells me it wasn’t impactful if it did indeed happen.

Almost a year to the day after I graduated from college in December 2006, I went on the first date with my husband. We had known each other since 1994 but never dated throughout high school. Our first date turned into moving in together, which turned into engagement and marriage and 2 beautiful daughters. But at first, church wasn’t something we did together. It wasn’t something we did apart. It wasn’t anything that we even talked about — at first.

We would go to church with my grandparents for the Easter service once in a while, and I recall attending his niece’s christening about 7 years ago. But we didn’t have a church that we attended regularly and we didn’t spend a great deal of time talking about our plans to change that. We were content in our lives with what we had and what we were doing and who we spent our time with. We didn’t pray. We didn’t talk about God. We just lived our lives.

It wasn’t until this past Fall that I made the connection. I decided to read a book called The Power of Now that was a turning-point in my life. This book talked about being present in each moment that we are living and breathing, and to actually pay attention to each breath that we take; it was a reminder to “stop and smell the roses” sometimes. This book was so much more for me than I can even begin to describe here… I remember not being able to put it down, and I had not read a book from start to finish in almost a decade. I remember wanting to tell everyone about it, and I tried. But I quickly learned that it was not something everyone wanted to hear. Not everyone wants to hear about a riveting self-help book that I read. Have you lost your mind, Candice? was the translation of the look on their faces when I shared it with some friends and loved ones. But that’s just the thing, I felt just the opposite: almost as if I had found my mind. Or at least myself.

I have been visiting an incredible hot yoga studio for about a year now and was able to relate to the points the author made about paying attention to your breath. Each time I would go to yoga after reading this book, I found myself channeling deeper into my awareness of my breath, and it became easier each time. I started noticing my breathing while at home sitting on the couch or cooking dinner. I started to notice when I had found my innermost feelings of peace and stillness. I noticed and embraced the quiet in my mind and in my body. I was thankful for the yoga teachers I have been led by in my practice as of late who have reminded me to just breathe.

I realized that the feeling I felt of warmth and white: that was God. And it was then that I began to connect the dots between my version of universe God and church God.  I realized that they were one in the same. I realized that the inner stillness I had found and recently tapped into was God within me. I started to literally see things differently, with more color, and with more appreciation of the beauty within everything around me. Once a lens that only reflected black and white images, I now see so much color.

Toward the end of last year, we visited a new church and my heart was open to accept everything that it had to offer. I found my inner stillness and peace and tears streamed down my face as my sweet friend poured her heart out through song on the stage. The walls were black, the lights were dark and the spirit of God was in that room. I was so moved. I was inspired to keep digging within to find God within me, and I am happy to say we’ve been back several Sunday mornings since this fist visit and not much has changed. Same tears. Same stillness and peace. Same good music that makes me cry every.single.time.

This week marks the one-year-anniversary of my return to work after maternity leave when Everly was born. Only one year ago I was in such a different place spiritually and emotionally. I couldn’t (wouldn’t) even engage in conversation with you about God. I didn’t want to. I was going through the motions to earn a paycheck and daydreamed about what life would be like in another version of it. I looked happy, but I wasn’t. I knew there was so much more to be gained but couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

Today I am happy to tell you that I fully accept that I am nothing without God. He is at work within me and I rest my case in arguing that I have a better way to do this. I am at full mercy of  letting go of fear and worry and anxiety in order to live fulfilled and am in awe of what God has planned for me. I start each day with personal time devoted to my relationship with God and appreciate the difference it has made in my life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”      

Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope and pray that I may always be able to stay mindful of something as simple as breathing. I pray that I can teach my girls to slow down and enjoy life each day rather than being busy in the process. May you find the color in your world and see it brightly. Namaste. And, Amen.

 

 

 

I Am Randall

this-is-us-randall-anxiety-today-170217-tease_c8bfaa76dd3d71f4a84ce55aff20367d-today-inline-vid-featured-desktop

We have been watching This is Us for several weeks now. We binge-watched the first half of season 1 in a couple of nights because we were hooked after the first episode. For those of you who don’t watch this show, if you are reading this blog you are on the Internet and I imagine you’ve seen someone talk about it at least. It has only been on for this first season and is currently running. Although I am not a big TV watcher and do not have much to compare this statement to, I do believe the writers of this NBC drama got something very right with this one.

The show tells the story of triplets (two of the three pictured here –no they are not biological siblings). The one on the right is Randall. He was dropped off on a firehouse door step in the 1970s by his  father, his crackhead mother having passed away right after he was born just a few days prior. His father left him in a cardboard box on the doorstep and it wasn’t long before a fireman found him and took him to the local hospital. Meanwhile, in the same hospital a woman gave birth to triplets; one of the three babies was stillborn. As fate would have it, a baby in a box was brought to the hospital that day, so the baby in the box became part of the triplets and joined the family that day, too. Their parents called them “The Big Three”.

In this picture, the one on the left is Kevin. He is one of the triplets born this day. His sister, Kate (not pictured here) is the other biological sibling.  The writers of the show did a remarkable job weaving the relationships of these three very different, yet strikingly similar individuals. The show utilizes flashbacks in every episode to deeper explain the life of Randall’s birth parents and the relationship of the triplets’ parents as newlyweds and through their lifetime.

When I watch this show, I find so many relatable themes and appreciate the messages hidden in the dialogue and dynamics between each character. I usually start crying within the first few minutes of watching, and have been moved by not just one or two characters on the show, but almost all of them at some point or another. It really is a feel-good show and I have enjoyed watching it each week.

The picture above is from a scene from last week’s episode. I won’t spoil any of the details of the episode in the event you haven’t watched it and think perhaps you will, but Randall suffered a panic attack in this episode. In this picture, his brother comforts him during his attack. As I watched this episode, my heart felt it would nearly implode with empathy as a wave of realization surged over me: AM WAS RANDALL.

I had my very first panic attack when I was in college at NC State. I was driving down Hillsborough Street on my way to campus for an exam. I had studied for the exam, and knew I would do well on it. But I was worried and stressed out about how tired I was and couldn’t stop thinking about rent that was due and life just simply seemed to overwhelm me at that very moment. Suddenly my chest tightened and I seemed to gasp for breath and I felt more afraid than I had ever felt before. I called my daddy and one of the only things I remember him repeating to me was, “Breathe, Candice. Just breathe.” He told me to look around in my car for a paper bag or something to help me breathe more easily. Of course I had nothing to assist with this, so I just pulled over and cried. And cried. And cried.

These have continued throughout my life, the most recent one being earlier this year. Yet for some reason I am able to say today that I suspect (and am so very hopeful) that it may just be the last one I will ever endure. I have grown as a person since my last panic attack — spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally — I have tapped into a part of myself that was guarded with lock and key. I have learned things about myself that were often hard to accept, yet rewarding to recognize in the essence of beauty. I have let go of fears, worry and resentment that unconsciously weighed me down. I have given my life back to God and accepted that I am not meant to control what happens to me, as my fate is written and was already unfolding. I have laid down my boxing gloves in the fight against myself and feel better and stronger and more capable than ever before.

As I look at this picture I am overwhelmed with pain for Randall and can empathize so wholeheartedly with his place in this moment. Yes, I realize it’s a TV show but this is real life, folks. People really do suffer from these terrible things: panic attack, mental breakdown, stress-induced trauma, nervous breakdown — call it what you will, but make it a point to be aware of your loved ones and offer support when you are able. Be understanding and don’t ever throw rocks. Support is critical to the delicate souls who suffer with these types of challenges in life and often times a genuine smile and a hug can make a really big difference in their day.

I share stories like this about myself in hopes of being a beacon of light for someone. Yes, I may make myself vulnerable to judgment and criticism, but I feel the overflow from my heart as I tell my stories and dwell on the possibility of positive impact rather than the fear of negative judgement. Through self-reflection, a whole lot of patience and the grace of God I strive daily to keep these fears at bay. Of course I have setbacks and I don’t always succeed, but I refuse to give up. Life is breathtakingly beautiful and it took me 35 years to realize this. However, this morning I was reminded that it doesn’t matter when you start, it only matters how you finish…

Choose Joy.